By Shani Silver

Published on January 28, 2016

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Photography by Chris Matthews

text by   SHANI SILVER
photography by   CHRIS MATHEWS

Anyone with a proper Instagram feed follows Sydney “Mayhem” Kesier and her parents, Keith & Angie Keiser, via@2sistersangie. Since May of 2013, the family has shared photos of couture-inspired paper dresses Mayhem creates (and models), delighting us with tiny versions of colorful, cool gowns. We are huge fans of the 6-year-old dressmaker, especially around awards season, and couldn’t pass up the chance to join Mayhem in her homeschool space and design studio, all the while learning a bit more about where this creative kiddo brings her designs to life.

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THIS FUN ROOM SEEMS TO BE A MULTIPURPOSE STUDIO FOR MAYHEM. CAN YOU LET US KNOW A BIT ABOUT HOW THE ROOM IS USED?

This particular room is a spare bedroom in our home, and eventually morphed into the space we refer to as our “design studio.” It really is a place where Mayhem can let her imagination run wild, and make the messes that kids need to make. We keep most of the paper and tape in an old hand me down dresser that we already had and we have some storage bins in the closet that hold supplies like scissors, glue, ribbon, crayons, and markers. This is the space in our house where Mayhem can go pretty much at any time and just make stuff. If she decides she wants to make a kite, she’ll go in and make a kite. If she wants to make some paper dresses … off she goes.

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DESK Custom designed table/desk, courtesy of Formica®     LEATHER COUCH IKEA    CHAIR IKEA    

CHALKBOARD EASEL IKEA   WINDOW SHEERS IKEA   CURTAIN Target   RUG At Home

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WHAT INSPIRED THIS ROOM?

The “design studio” really started out as a blank slate, and as much as we wanted to keep it a “neat and tidy, put everything away and out of sight” space, it’s become a really fun way to showcase the creativity. Paper dresses taped to walls and rolls of colored tape scattered about probably isn’t considered “design,” but it’s almost like having our own little art gallery.Our “homeschool space,” on the other hand, is very much in our living space (it’s technically the dining room of our home), so we’ve tried to keep the decorating in line with the other rooms that it flows between.

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HOW DID YOU SELECT YOUR FORMICA PATTERN FOR MAYHEM’S TABLE? HOW DO YOU SEE THIS AS A BETTER CHOICE THAN THE TYPICAL WORKTABLE?

Truthfully, the choosing of the Formica® laminate patterns was all Mayhem. She fell in love with that pattern from their Jonathan Adler collection immediately, and then she thought the darker pattern would compliment it well. Or as she put it, “they just kind of go together, you know?!” And I absolutely love the durability of this table. The table we had in her space prior to this was wood, and I’ll be honest, it took a beating. Kids are ROUGH on surfaces, so I love having something that not only looks fashionable, but can stand up to the painting, coloring, cutting, pasting, and general beating that a six-year-old with a wild sense of creativity dishes out.

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MANNEQUINS Amazon      WINDOW SHEERS IKEA

WE LOVE SEEING HER DRESSES ON THE WALL, ARE THESE SOME OF HER FAVORITES?

Thank you! Some of these are definitely favorites as far as dresses go, but we’re also trying to swap them out a bit more frequently. I think seeing the dresses on the walls serves as an important reminder of all the good things that come when we embrace our creativity. But I’ve also noticed it’s also good to keep changing the room up to stimulate new creative energy. It feels like such an easy way to generate new thinking, even when you’re in the same space.

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HOW DOES MAYHEM GO ABOUT PLANNING HER NEXT DRESS PROJECT? WHAT INSPIRES HER?

Gosh, that is such an excellent question, and one even I haven’t been able to fully crack the code to. There are definitely times that she gains inspiration from characters in books or shows she watches, but I love to watch her simply open the drawer on her “paper dresser” and start pulling out paper and tape. She often lays out patterns next to each other to see what she likes, and then gets to work putting it all together. There isn’t usually some grand master plan ahead of time (although, there has been, on occasion) and she often edits as she goes. Sleeves are added, lengths are shortened, and details are perfected on the fly.

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WHAT IS HER FAVORITE PART OF THE DRESSMAKING PROCESS?

Mayhem: “Putting different designs together.”

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WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PARENTS CREATING A SIMILAR SCHOOL/CREATIVE SPACE FOR THEIR CHILDREN?

I would say that creativity sake, try and find at least a small space to let the kids showcase some of their artwork. Even if you don’t have a separate room to use, tape off a small section of a single wall and let them tape up favorite pictures, paintings, or creations. It’s amazing how much confidence it builds when they see their work on display. And if the only space you have to work in is open to the rest of your home (like our homeschool space) I think finding storage pieces is key. I absolutely LOVE our Formica® laminate table/desk because there are shelves built in to both ends which means I don’t have to have additional shelving or storage to hold our school and/or art supplies. But maybe most importantly, don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune on creating a perfect space. Use what you have (like the hand me down dresser holding all our paper in our “design studio”) and know that most important thing you can give your kids is time, attention, and encouragement.

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IS DRESSMAKING SOMETHING MAYHEM HOPES TO DO WHEN SHE GROWS UP?

Mayhem: “Maybe. Because I’m not really sure of all the things I’m going to want to do yet.”

SMART THINKING MAYHEM, WE LIKE YOUR STYLE.